Football by the Numbers: Matchups to seek and avoid

Michael Salfino
Yahoo! Sports

These rankings are for the purposes of how many fantasy points they score. We're trying to use season-to-date performance to predict how many fantasy points they are likely to allow this week to offensive players. If you have questions relating to matchups, feel free to ask them via Twitter @MichaelSalfino. But don't ask me which fantasy defense to play – if that's your biggest problem, you're good. Generally, pick the defense that Tim Tebow(notes) is playing against – Oakland this week. There's six or seven sacks plus assorted turnovers right there.

First a word about the categories. Only "Red Zone" is a little tricky. We're not talking efficiency there, but rather red zone possessions allowed. Red Zone Possessions have proven over many years to be more useful in predicting future defensive performances. Plus there's too much overlap with the TD rates we look at. RYPG is rushing yards per game. RTD/G is rushing TDs per game. PYPG is passing yards per game. PTD/G is passing TDs/per game. Obviously, yardage allowed is more reliable than touchdowns allowed for predictive purposes.

Here are the rankings. Matchup recommendations follow.

Defensive Power Rankings

Teams are sorted by cumulative rankings in all categories. Lowest total number is best; highest is worst.

Rank Team RZ RYPG RTD/G PYPG PTD/G POWER
1 Baltimore 1 3 2 3 2 11
2 Pittsburgh 3 8 7 1 9 28
3 Cincinnati 1 2 18 9 3 33
4 Houston 10 6 16 5 6 43
5 San Francisco 8 1 1 21 13 44
6 Cleveland 6 26 3 2 11 48
7 Jacksonville 3 14 16 8 13 54
8 Dallas 13 4 7 16 17 57
9 Seattle 10 11 13 18 6 58
10 San Diego 15 18 7 4 17 61
11 Detroit 19 30 3 6 6 64
12 NY Jets 10 25 29 7 1 72
13 New Orleans 3 24 18 11 17 73
14 Washington 19 21 18 12 4 74
15 Philadelphia 6 19 18 10 23 76
16 Tennessee 13 27 7 17 17 81
17 Green Bay 15 10 3 31 23 82
18 Chicago 19 12 7 28 17 83
19 Minnesota 18 5 7 29 28 87
20 Atlanta 27 7 18 23 13 88
21 Miami 17 13 3 27 30 90
22 NY Giants 27 28 29 13 4 101
23 Carolina 19 29 31 14 9 102
24 Buffalo 19 20 27 24 13 103
25 St Louis 8 32 18 15 30 103
26 Oakland 19 16 24 25 23 107
27 Denver 29 17 13 19 30 108
27 Kansas City 19 22 24 20 23 108
27 New England 31 9 13 32 23 108
30 Tampa Bay 19 23 24 26 17 109
31 Arizona 31 15 32 30 11 119
32 Indianapolis 30 31 28 22 29 140

The Panthers, Lions, Jaguars and Vikings are off this week.

Let's start with the worst defensive teams as always.

Falcons at Colts (32): Indy last week shut down the mysteriously, consistently ineffective Chris Johnson – who is playing like he was bitten by a Tsetse fly during his holdout. Will they have similar success with Michael Turner(notes)? Considering they had little against Johnson's backup Javon Ringer(notes), I'll say, "no." But the Colts are terrible against the pass, too. So all the Falcons get major upgrades this week. Indy has packed it in, so the sky is the liimit.

Rams at Cardinals (31): Okay, maybe I was wrong in the Scouting NotebookSteven Jackson will probably have one more great week in him. Then, trade him. Brandon Lloyd(notes) is a good play this week because I would put more weight into the yards allowed versus the TDs allowed – especially when the defense in question is 31st in red zone possessions allowed. That says a lot of guys are being tackled inside the five, a fluke.

Bucs (30) at Saints: Revenge will be sweet for Brees and company. But do you realize that since opening day, no Saints running back has had more than 50 percent of the Saints carries?

Giants at Patriots (27): The Giants pass defense is very good. Corey Webster(notes) has been solid and their pass rush is first-class all around. Big Blue's run defense stinks, but you want the Patriots to try to run it. Given Eli Manning's(notes) play of late plus the Patriots allowing 320-plus yards per game, he's the No. 1 QB this week. If Hakeem Nicks(notes) is limited due to his hamstring injury, he'll still be top five, and Victor Cruz(notes) is a top 10-to-20 wideout.

Turning to the best defensive teams:

Ravens (1) at Steelers (2): The Ravens have little chance to do anything unless they get seven turnovers again. Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is playing his best football ever, but this is going to be an ugly game. Expect 200 yards and 1-to-2 scores from Big Ben.

Bengals (3) at Titans: Sorry Johnson owners. I also picked a bad week to say that Nate Washington(notes) is a borderline top 20 receiver.

Jets (12) at Bills: Why are the Jets here? Fred Jackson(notes) is definitely a play, there's no denying. But the Bills and Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) do not match up well at all against the Jets, who will blitz like crazy since the Bills never throw the ball more than five yards anyway. So it's all upside for Rex Ryan. Mark Sanchez(notes) seriously outscores Ryan Fitzpatrick. Little known fact: Jets nickel corner Kyle Wilson(notes) (a No. 1 pick last year) has the fourth-best passer rating allowed among corners who have been targeted 20 or more times (41.5). So receivers can get marooned on Wilson Island, too.

Feel free to ask my any questions via Twitter @MichaelSalfino